Sustainability’s new friend – plastic

According to a United Nations study, every day, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks filled with plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes. It’s a villainous looking plastic face. And rightly so. That is the story of single use plastic. It’s no surprise that governments around the world are trying to reduce the amount of plastic waste.

There is another side to the story for plastics – a story of clear steps in the direction of eco-friendliness and sustainability. For one thing, plastic is lighter than metal without sacrificing strength. They can be used in industrial applications without the need for lubricants, and when properly planned, they can be recycled at the end of their life.

Lightweight saves fuel

Reducing the weight of vehicles can have a huge impact on fuel consumption. As car makers are under constant pressure to increase miles per gallon, every time makes a difference. „The most important topic is the difference in weight between metal and plastics. Plastics are lighter. This is a unique selling point for us,” said Stephan Lueckmann Rittich, head of the bearings business at igus. Design news. “When you look at electric cars, you can reduce weight with plastic. A metal bushing is five times heavier than a plastic bushing. If you have a lot of bushing, you can reduce the weight of a car. It reduces the electricity or fuel required to drive the car. Saving weight can save a lot of money and a lot of CO2 over the life of the car.

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This issue is a major concern in the space industry. Some experts estimate that every pound of an airplane’s weight, including crew, passengers, baggage, and aircraft, adds up to approximately $10,000 in annual fuel costs. „Weight is a major factor in airplanes. In a typical business class seat, there are at least four bearings,” said Lukeman Rittich. „If you have 200 passenger seats and you can save half an ounce of weight per seat, you can save tons. The lighter weight of plastic reduces the fuel needed to fly.

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Lubricant-free plastic

Another area where plastics can improve the environment is lubrication. Metal bearings require lubricants that are harsh on the environment. Well-designed plastic bearings eliminate the need for lubricants. „Another aspect of sustainability for plastic bearings is the lack of need for lubricants. Metal bearings require lubricants, and our plastic bearings do not require lubricants,” said Lukeman Rittich. If.”

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Approximately 50% of all lubricants enter the soil.

A metal bearing may require substantial lubricants throughout the life of the component. „When a bearing needs to be re-greased repeatedly, it can have a significant impact on the life of the bearing,” Lukeman Rittich. „We’re getting close to the point where there are restrictions on the use of lubricants in the field because of the lubricants going into the soil.”

Recycling completes the circle

Plastic waste can have a significant negative impact on the environment. When plastics reach the end of their service life – often after a quick use – they end up in incinerators or in rivers, lakes and oceans. igus is working to counter this with its „Chainge” recycling platform. The company invested in Surplus, a start-up based in Hamburg, Germany. The companies have a collective vision to close the plastic cycle with recycled materials from technical and sustainable thermoplastics.

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The CHANGE project has demonstrated that a circular economy can be easily achieved, which requires new recycling material options. In early 2019, igus executives recognize this need and help customers recycle unused energy chains, regardless of manufacturer.

In October 2022, the Chainge online platform was created to provide easy digital access to recycling. The market can now be used to add technical plastics to the circular economy. It enables processing companies to procure recycled plastics with guaranteed quality standards. This change makes it easier to achieve the declared recycling quota. To further advance the digital circular economy, igus invested in Surplus.

Cirplus provides disposal companies, recyclers and product manufacturers with a digital marketplace where they can purchase standardized recyclables in a reliable, traceable, cost-effective manner – globally. Cirplus was responsible for launching DIN SPEC 91446 and DIN SPEC 91481 as the world’s first standard for high quality plastics recycling. The drive is to create reliable, transparent supply chains for plastic recycling through digitization and standardization. „Our efforts to expand our operations and make them accessible to everyone led us to work together with Surplus,” said Michael Blass, CEO of igus. „With this investment, we are setting a precedent for people to think about sustainability and create a network that can move more.

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